The Lollies: Potential

Community Records, 2011

There isn’t a whole lot of mystery to how local punk band the Lollies are finding their niche in the New Orleans musical landscape. Since emerging on the scene earlier this year and playing a string of memorable performances with an unmatched melodic intensity, the young four-piece has been cultivating a loyal following of fans who have come to crave the spectacle of their raucous live shows.

A little less obvious though is how the Lollies manage to do it all so effortlessly. Often the only thing more impressive than their raw excitement is their ability to temper it enough to keep things tight without missing a step and melodically harmonize without losing their aggressive edge.

But if there was ever any doubt to whether the Lollies were capable of putting on wax a product as perfectly balanced as their live prowess, Potential – their debut full-length on Community Records, a local punk label as much known for its attention to quality as its dedication to painstaking drudgery and elbow grease – makes it clear that this young band possesses a tireless drive to meet its members’ own high standards. Indeed, recorded over a sleepless 8 month period in the 9th Ward bedroom of lead singer and central songwriter Zachery Quinn, Potential somehow manages to match – if not totally outdo – the Lollies’ live energy with a meticulous focus on aural nuance and versatile instrumental arrangement despite the project’s shoestring budget.

Right out of the gate, opener “I am a Malcontent” balances the chaotic intensity of Long Walk-era Whippersnapper with cavernous shouts and smooth, shadowy trumpets while “The Struggle” stacks Descendents-inspired tinny guitars atop cymbal-heavy drumwork and glazes them over with the trademark melodic “oohs” and “ahhs” of guitarist Brian Pretus.  Elsewhere, “My Parents Are Cannibals (For Good Reason)” brings to the surface the rock n’ roll punk influence of Rancid with Alex Talbot muffing his bass to a high-register rumble, Pretus ringing out feel-good guitar solos and Quinn rolling a barroom piano behind one of the most absorbing vocal performances on the album.

More impressive than the array of deep-rooted punk influences on display in Potential is the facile dexterity with which the Lollies weave it all together having the luxury of nothing more than their own talent and resourcefulness, and it’s no wonder that these young punks have been the subject of gradually more vocal praise over the last year. Music this fully-realized serves less as a revival or reawakening of New Orleans’ profound love of DIY punk and more of a simple reminder that it hasn’t gone anywhere and that when it’s done well, few listening experiences are as satisfying.

Potential at CommunityRecords.org

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Live Picks: 09.29.2011 – 10.05.2011

09.29: Van Hunt + Empress Hotel – Tipitina’s

09.30: Cute Machines + Prom Date + Mobley – Cafe Prytania

10.01: The Lollies + The Rooks + Stuck Lucky – Bank Street Bar

10.02: Tune-Yards + Pat Jordache – One Eyed Jacks

10.04: DāM-FunK + Master Blazter – One Eyed Jacks

Last Fall, our own Queen of The Rare Groove DJ Soul Sister began compulsively tweeting about a show that had recently been added to the always exciting One Eyed Jacks schedule.  A vocal proponent of all things awesome, Soul Sister is constantly spreading the word about any number of right-on party situations developing around the city.  But this was different.  The first time she referred to Los Angeles multi-instumentalist and producer DāM-FunK (né Damon Riddick) as her “favorite DJ”, it could have been written off as simple over-enthusiasm or hyperbole; but as she frequently repeated the claim in the run-up to his December, 2010 concert, you had no choice but to recognize the earnestness of her obsession.

And anyone who attended DāM-FunK’s first New Orleans gig could easily see why DJ Soul Sister – who herself is the number one choice for scores of New Orleans looking to funk the night away to rediscovered soul – digs so hard on the guy.  It was an arresting experience, as a survey of the room at any giving point in the night would have shown: while half the crowd was propulsively writhing to his massively infectious re-imagining of the seminal boogie that gave birth to hip-hop’s G-Funk era, the other half was almost frozen in place, at one consumed, enveloped and – to be perfectly honest – a bit overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of DāM-FunK’s futuristic take on the low-down synth grooves of the mid-1980s.

As a one man show, DāM-FunK is a beat-mapping, keytar-wielding, drum programming force of nature, and in his return to One Eyed Jacks he’ll also be joined by his friends Computer Jay and J-1 for a set as Master Blazter, a three-piece supergroup that delves even deeper into the transcendent funk he knows so well.

MP3: DāM-FunK: “Forever”

Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks

Preview // 2011 Gentilly Fest: 10.01.2011 – 10.02.2011

This weekend, the community-organized Gentilly Fest returns for a fourth year of ambitiously tackling the myriad problems facing the historic New Orleans Neighborhood in the wake of not only Katrina, but also the more broad economic decline that has hit the Gentilly area particularly hard.

The Gentilly Fest began three years ago as a way to help our community help ourselves. We realized that our first responders did not have funds to adequately equip their facilities with furniture, office supplies and other general small office equipment…  [It] also provides an opportunity for neighbors to come together and celebrate the community’s rich and resilient culture.

In addition to supplementing the shoestring budgets of the area’s police and fire departments and reacquainting neighbors still returning after recent diasporas, proceeds from the event help fund community arts and recreation programs such as the Pontchartrain Park and Milne Playground Sports Programs and the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp.  This year’s lineup features not only local favorites like Kermit Ruffins, Treme-scene stealer Wanda Rouzan and Mike “The Soul Man” Batiste, but also hip hop living legend and original human beatbox Doug E. Fresh.

And as seems to be the case with New Orleans festivals large and small, the weekend’s food options are arguably just as much of a draw as the rest of the programming.  Ms. Linda will be slinging Ya-Ka-Mein, Ms. Caldwell is bringing the Cane River Meat Pies, and McHardy’s is frying up the chicken (just to name a few of the over 15 food vendors who will be on site).  The fairgrounds will also host a Kids Village and a craft market, as well as  booths manned by local businesses and non-profits offering practical recovery information and literature.

Gentilly Fest 2011 will be held at the Pontchartrain Park Playground from 11AM – 7PM on Saturday October 1 and from 10AM – 6PM on Sunday, October 2.  Admission is free, but a $5 donation is highly recommended.

MP3: MC Ricky D and the Get Fresh Crew: “La Di Da Di”

Gentilly Fest 2011 – Built By The Community

MyNameIsJohnMichael + G-Eazy + Christoph Andersson: 09.15.2011

There was a lot to be excited about before last Thursday’s show at Tipitina’s.  While rising hip-hop impresario G-Eazy spent the last month on a series of late summer mini-tours, we spent it listening to his latest full length release – August’s The Endless Summer – on repeat.  He’s been a fixture on the local rap scene and blogosphere consciousness for a few years, but in the last six weeks his popularity has surged and as his national profile has grown exponentially.

Back in New Orleans for the first time since the album dropped, it was apparent that G-Eazy’s widespread notoriety is no accident. He crow-hopped through a series of college-dude boasts and weed-induced and inspired serenades with an infectious swagger, and human metronome Blake Robinson added a relentless barrage of live drums that rounded out and elevated G’s already ingenious beats.  By the time he welcomed his friends Team Robot out to close his set with a monstrous take on their monstrous collaboration “Run”, the young crowd was reaching the levels of mass hysteria reserved for the 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ roll legends to whom G-Eazy has been paying so much homage these days.  The performance put a fine point on G-Eazy’s emergence as one of the city’s marquee talents, and provided an ascendant foreword to the eclectic evening’s main event.

The last time MyNameIsJohnMichael took the stage at Tipitina’s, it marked one of lead man John Michael Rouchell’s first local gigs with his band’s new lineup and arrangement,  and it showed.  While newly enlisted drummer Neilson Bernard and keyboardist Phillip Breen, as well as the dedicated three-part horn section, busted through songs new and old with accuracy and even aplomb, the manic energy that had once been the band’s calling card seemed to be replaced with a polite deference towards faithful live reproduction.  Admittedly, though, there lies very little utility in comparing the MNIJM of 2009 or 2010 with the current incarnation. Rouchell continues to deftly embrace the evolution of his project instead of raging against it, and has recently re-emerged with music and a band as charming and engaging as ever, just for a host of very different reasons.  Still, it was hard not to miss the wild kineticism of five guys practically somersaulting between instruments that was paramount in the old MyNameIsJohnMichael.

Six months and a nationwide whistle-stop tour later, MNIJM returned to Tip’s as a fully coalesced unit markedly more comfortable with themselves, the music and each other.  The interplay between Rouchell and bassist Joe Bourgeois, the only other holdover from the original lineup, was as dynamic as ever, but this time around their innate chemistry was set against the heady ease of a backing band confidently flexing their battled tested chops.  New singles “Orphan” and “Elders” sounded even slinkier and more playful than they do on tape, and the wicked horn section weaseled some extra soul out of The People That Come And Go staples like “Misery Runs”.

It was an exciting night night of music, with both G-Eazy and Rouchell making loud pronouncements through their spirited live sets: One man let the world know he has arrived and the other reminded it he isn’t going anywhere.

The Breton Sound: Eudaemonia

Self-released, 2011

Just a little over a year ago, local axeman Jonathan Pretus stepped off the Cowboy Mouth tour bus for the last time after frantically traveling the country with the over-the-top southern rockers since 2007. The decision came after Pretus reunited with his college buddy and former bandmate Stephen Turner for a few months of clandestine jam sessions, sessions he found more musically rewarding than the time he spent on the road.  Almost immediately, Pretus and Turner began the process of writing and refining the songs that would become Eudaemonia, both men’s return to original, collaborative songwriting.

The album operates ostensibly and most obviously as The Breton Sound‘s attempt to perfect a studio fidelity seemingly out of the reach of your average under-budgeted local band – and overwhelmingly, Pretus and Turner succeed in their goal. Through the one-two power pop punch of “No More Worries” and “Crisis or Carnival” – rife with multi-layered acoustic and electric guitars, revelrous vocal harmonies and shimmering stereo percussion – producer Tom Drummond comes about as close to perfecting that trademark Mark Trombino touch as anyone in the last decade,   and the swirling instrumental fireworks that swell effortlessly from the songs’ softer, more metered passages show off an impressive dynamism that harkens back to Hoist-and-Rift-era Phish.

The album’s power-pop exterior continually belies an entire host of disparate influences, with odes to aggro-punk, modern AOR rock, and  heavy metal.  The EP’s longest track, “Lines” – which clocks in at almost 8 minutes – finds Pretus guiding the listener through a series of progressive piano-planted suites threaded over a nimble Built To Spill guitar backdrop before Turner and bassist Jason Navo join in for a spellbinding, anthematic Superdrag-meets-Porcupine Tree apogee.

Through it all, the diverse set of songs on Eudaemonia are lush and refreshing departures from the trendy dependence on lo-fi sonic artifacts to provide a particular piece of music all it’s tension and intrigue; and earnest and considerate songwriting prevent this slickly produced EP from suffering the opposite fate of being weighed down by studio gloss.

Eudaemonia at TheBretonSound.com

Live Picks: 09.22.2011 – 09.28.2011

09.22: Vapo-Rats + The Riffs + The Unnaturals – 12 Bar

09.23: Big History + King Rey + Baby Bee – Eiffel Society

When local rock band King Rey took the stage at One Eyed Jacks to close out last year’s New Orleans Indie Rock Festival, they were sandwiched on the bill between Big History and Empress Hotel – acts that were, for all intents and purposes, much more sought-after in the New Orleans indie rock world. But as King Rey’s surprisingly realized hodgepodge of seemingly disparate genres proceeded to subtly steal the show that night, they proved to be one of the great wild cards of the city’s musical landscape. Their humbly forthright presentation is belied by a meticulous meld of psychedelic steeped classic rock and a soulful brand of electric doo-wop that harkens back to the early hit-makers at Stax records.

After a first half of 2011 that found King Rey relatively quiet on the live front, they popped up again in July with the Street Friends EP. An impressively produced debut for the band, it manages to perfectly convey the anomalous genre and decade leanings that they so effortlessly jump between in a live setting. However, even though Kyle Richie, Christopher Evans, Brad Stire, and Trey and Matthew Cloutier pride themselves on their heavily collaborative songwriting process, King Rey somehow brilliantly avoids the usual complications of so much intertwined influence: whether they’re riffing on Veltones-esque vocal harmonies or throwing around some Soft Bulletin-era acid effects, King Rey never come off sounding unfocused, too cutesy or overly serious.

Back with their friends in Big History and joined by fuzzy rock n’ roll two-piece Baby Bee, King Rey is giving concertgoers who may not otherwise have many reasons to step foot inside Eiffel Society a good excuse to check out what is truly a stunning event space.

MP3: King Rey: “My Only One”

09.24: Fat History Month + Chris Rehm + Habitat – Hey! Cafe

09.25: ANR + Ben Jones – Hi-Ho Lounge

09.26: Peter Bjorn & John + Dinosaur Feathers – One Eyed Jacks

09.27: The Capitalist Kids + Marathon + Adults – Siberia

09.28: Explosions in the Sky + Wye Oak – Tipitina’s

Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks